The Importance of Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment, Recovery, and Long-Term Control

Women in a group therapy session.
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If you or someone you love has borderline personality disorder (BPD), you might wonder if there's a cure. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there. In addition, it can take awhile to understand the terms that doctors use.

Understanding the Terms

Borderline personality disorder is treatable and recovery is possible. Though mental health specialists rarely use the word "cured," many people recover or at least have the symptoms of their disorder controlled so that they can live a fulfilled life.

To understand the terminology, it may be helpful to compare BPD with some cancers. Treatment is available, and many people recover, but it's unlikely that a person will ever hear the word "cured."

The Myth That Treatment Can't Help BPD

One very common myth is that borderline personality disorder can't be treated. Fortunately, this myth just isn't true.

In the past, experts did believe that BPD did not respond to treatment. However, in the past few decades, a number of new treatments for BPD have been developed such as dialectical behavior therapy, which have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of BPD.  Medications have also been shown to be helpful in treating borderline personality disorder for some people.

Recovery Is Possible

So, does this mean there is a cure for borderline personality disorder? Not exactly. Yes, there are a number of effective treatments for BPD. These treatments can result in such substantial symptom reduction for some individuals that by the end of treatment they might be considered "recovered."

In fact, there's evidence showing that many people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder can lose the diagnosis within a few years because they no longer meet the criteria. This sometimes happens even without treatment. Misdiagnosis of borderline personality disorder appears to be very common.

Long-Term Control

But, not everyone experiences such dramatic symptom reduction. Many people who undergo treatment for borderline personality disorder continue to have some symptoms, but find the symptoms to be much more tolerable, and report that they are able to function far better in their lives. In this way, BPD is similar, in some ways, to diabetes. With treatment, the disease doesn't go away, but the symptoms are managed very well on a long-term basis. You may hear your therapist talk about " long-term control" and this is what is often meant.

BPD and Treatment, Recovery, and Cure

The bottom line? There's no way to know how any one person with borderline personality disorder will respond to the various treatment options that are available. Nonetheless, there definitely are treatments for BPD that are remarkably effective and may stop many of the symptoms in some people. And even for those who do not fully recover from borderline personality disorder, treatment is extremely helpful.

What to Do If You're Diagnosed With BPD

If you're diagnosed with BPD, it's important not to panic about a lack of a cure or other inaccurate information that is out there. As noted, misdiagnosis is common. Finding a good therapist is essential, both to determine if you truly have BPD, and to help you manage the symptoms if you do.

There is a lot of overlap between mental health conditions. For example, it's thought that half of people diagnosed with BPD also suffer from major depressive disorder. Improvement and recovery will thus require managing these different aspects of your condition as well.

Take the time to learn about your condition and be your own advocate in your care. Some people need to interview a few therapists before they find the one who can help them manage their disorder over the long term. When you're improving, you will possibly face one of the most difficult decisions. When should you quit therapy? The answer will vary for each person.

In addition to learning all you can about your disease, check out these self-help strategies for BPD. Many of the coping skills used to deal with BPD are skills that can help anyone, and therefore may help you whether or not you continue to fit the criteria for BPD in the future.

BPD and Family Relationships

When we discuss the treatments for BPD we often talk about individuals, but a diagnosis of BPD in a family member affects all members and creates unique challenges. In addition to a traditional treatment plan, family therapy for BPD can help not only the person living with the disorder but the whole family.

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